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"Bitterness is like taking poison, and waiting for the other person to die." - Malachy McCourt

I once knew a woman whose heart had been broken by disappointing relationships. She became very sarcastic towards the opposite sex and could often be overheard making disparaging remarks about them. It always surprised me that, although she never had a nice word to say about men, she seemed always to be searching for one.

Each time she began a new relationship it seemed to be all candy and flowers. Before long, however, the spiteful remarks would start and the next I would hear, her current beau could do nothing to please her. She seemed to always be angry at them for some imagined wrong no one else could see and for which she would find various ways to punish them. She seemed to feel strong when she was angry, as though her anger somehow made her powerful.

The men at first seemed hurt and baffled and finally so frustrated they just gave up trying to please her. At this point the arguments would escalate until finally a breakup would occur and she was alone again, back to the venomous remarks, with new fuel for the fire of her anger. After a number of relationships over a span of years, the woman became very bitter. Today she is alone.

Anger is only one letter short of danger. There is danger in clinging to your pain and anger. When you feed anger, it becomes resentment and resentment, over time, becomes bitterness. If you have ever been in the presence of a bitter person, you know it is like listening to a recording stuck on replay. Any joy an angry person could glean from today is obliterated by the ugly smear of bitterness they feel about yesterday.

Bitterness branches out like a tree over your life and overshadows any happiness you might otherwise find. Every time you speak bitter words, you feel the cold shadow of bitterness pass over. The problem of bitterness is not unique to women; there are also many men who are angry and bitter.

Becoming bitter over disappointment in our lives does not solve our problems any more than the accompanying self pity does. The problem is you are hurt and angry. Going over and over why you are hurt and angry only feeds your anger. It does not heal your pain.

Malcolm S. Forbes once said “Keeping score of old scores and scars, getting even and one-upping always makes you less than you are.”

People are not always capable of giving us what we need from them. We must come to a place in life where we understand and accept that life is not always fair and people aren’t always fair and that there will be people in our lives that hurt us, some intentionally, some unintentionally.

Bitterness keeps you in bondage to the pain. It also keeps you focused on blaming someone else instead of working towards your own happiness. By constantly replaying the hurt in your mind, you continually reopen the wound, preventing it from

ever healing. Bitterness will not heal the past, but it will steal your future. And bitterness will leave you lonely. Your caustic anger and open hostility will not draw love to you, nor keep it if it comes; in fact, it will cause others to avoid you.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves: "There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless-- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

No one is ever going to pay you back for your pain. You can punish every person of the opposite sex you meet from now until forever and all the revenge you can ever exact from the innocent will still never heal that wound.

There is no one on earth who has not been wronged at some time in their life. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has been hurt by someone. The pain you have suffered does not make you special; it is what you do with that pain that sets you apart.

Life can make you bitter or it can make you better. You choose. The only difference between the two is the “I.”

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.” - Maya Angelou

Excerpted from Sidewalk Flowers, Vol. 1

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